Australia — The Government today claims to have achieved the largest planned-burns program on public land in 30 years.
According to figures obtained by The Weekly Times, 250,216ha of public land was treated with planned burns, with several weeks to go before the end of the financial year.
A government spokeswoman said about 200,000ha had also been destroyed by bushfires in the summer but these were not included in the prescribed burning numbers.
This years total was an 11 per cent increase on the 197,149ha burned in 2011-12 and a significant rise on the 146,106ha burned in 2009-10, the last year of the Labor government.
Department of Environment and Primary Industries chief fire officer Alan Goodwin said the department was working on the 390,000ha, or 5 per cent, target and aimed to burn 260,000ha next year.
But the 260,000ha figure is at odds with the Coalition Government’s pre-election pledge.
In November 2010, then deputy opposition leader Peter Ryan said “we will reach the 5 per cent of public land target that was recommended by the Bushfires Royal Commission by 2014”.
Mr Goodwin said the department needed to stage its approach to reach the 390,000ha level.
“Basically we’re on our way to 390,000ha and each year we’ve been increasing the planned area that we want to achieve and burn,” he said.
Environment Minister Ryan Smith paid tribute to the DEPI and Parks Victoria crews in a year that saw large bushfires.
“What is most impressive is the fact that this target has been achieved by our outstanding crews in a year when they have battled some of the largest bushfires the state has seen in recent years,” Mr Smith said.
Mountain Cattlemen’s Association Victoria president Charlie Lovick was still concerned about the strategic nature of the burning, but said the Government was on track: “There is no doubt they have listened to us and understand the problem we face and at least they are attempting to get the job under control.”
Retired CSIRO fire scientist David Packham said the Government had done well to increase the acreage burnt but planned burns needed to be high-quality and strategically targeted.